An Open Letter to the Public from U.S. Ambassador Kate Marie Byrnes

July 8, 2022


Your country has reached a historic moment in its long and challenging journey toward its Euro-Atlantic future. Along the way, your path has had its share of roadblocks and delays, and you have faced challenges to the Macedonian language and identity, which are an intrinsic part of who you are as a nation. You made difficult decisions with expectations for advancement, and you now need to make another one. Yet it is because of the challenges you have faced and those you may confront in the future that the United States is encouraging you to move forward with the current EU accession proposal.

You need no reminder that a series of governments and the public at large have been working toward EU accession for two decades. As an Ally, partner, and friend, we have a vested interest in securing your Euro-Atlantic future. We have walked the path together since 2004, implementing programs and providing assistance aimed at helping you realize both your NATO and EU aspirations. You have achieved the first. Now we want to see you secure the benefits that come from an active accession process and the rights of being an EU member state.

EU accession will make your country stronger. Joining an international organization, much less participating in those processes, is hard work, and it comes with hard decisions. You already know this; you’ve been making them. But accepting this proposal means that you will finally have a seat at the accession negotiating table. It puts EU member states, many of whom are your close partners and Allies, in the room with you. The European Commission will receive your teams in Brussels and will send its experts here on the ground, conducting the screening process and witnessing for themselves the vibrant democratic society that exists here. Once you begin negotiations, you will have more tools and, thanks to the new methodology, earlier access to EU funds and programs—which you can use to realize your own goals, and to build the future you want for yourself and your children. And once you are in the EU, you will have an equal voice inside the Union, just like you do in NATO.

The issues contained in the proposal are technical and have been presented to you without a lot of time for public debate. We understand it is not what you would have drafted if you had been able to unilaterally dictate the terms—but it recognizes the Macedonian language and identity and protects them from further challenges. While it may not be perfect, the proposal does what is needed: it protects your critical interests and launches negotiations and a dynamic screening process. In our pragmatic view, it represents, realistically, the best opportunity to finally move your country forward on its EU path while strengthening your agency over your own future.

The choice to move forward is your decision as a sovereign nation—and we know it is a hard one. But it will continue to be your decision throughout your accession process. At the negotiating table, if you feel your concerns are not being addressed, you can make different choices. You need to make a first step in order to get to the second.

The essence of democracy is the freedom to choose. The essence of friendship is to support the choices our friends make and to call for courage in challenging times. As your friend, the United States hopes you choose what is best for your country for today, but also for the future.